Negative Political Campaigning

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"Negative Political Campaigning"

Going negative is not a step to be taken lightly, although today more campaigns go negative more quickly than ever before. Janice M. King, president of Janice King Communications, when discussing negative advertising in general, said that negative messages about competitors create FUD: fear, uncertainty, and doubt. You must consider seriously the implications of your candidate causing FUD and its resulting stresses on the political system. Campaigns & Elections reported that Cathy Allen, president of Campaign Connection of Seattle, indicated that going negative might be the proper course when taking on an incumbent, when the opponent is outspending the candidate by large margins, when there is irrefutable information that the opponent has done something wrong, and when the candidate has little name recognition. According to Dean Michael Mezey of DePaul University,what negative advertising does is get your supporters committed and excited. Those who are indifferent are so turned off that they are less likely to vote, as are people who are for the other candidate so not only does it help you, but it depresses turnout. The ideal, rational goal is to turn out your most committed supporters and make sure nobody else turns out. If you are making an outrageous charge against an opponent, document it. Illinois U.S. Senate candidate Al Salvi in 1996 insulted Jim Brady, President Ronald Reagan's former press secretary, a gunshot victim, and a national hero, by calling him a former machine-gun dealer. Coming in the last weekend of the campaign, the gaffe was one from which Salvi could not recover. In a 1992 California State Assembly race, a campaign released to the media information that its opponents was a pornographer ,but the pornographer was actually a different man with the same name. In 1996, a Quebec legislator, claiming vote fraud, gave an example of allegedly fraudulent names registered in his district: Omar Sharif living with Martina Navratilova. Turns out that Sharif is the son of the actor, and his wife is a stockbroker whose name really is Martina Navratilova. If you discover something damaging about your opponent, do not send it to the media anonymously. You can come right out and make charges, or you can request that the media print or broadcast the information without attribution to you or the campaign. The media generally will honor that request. If they receive it from an unknown source, however, they will either figure it is a trap or have no way to follow-up and learn more, so their only alternative is to ignore it. Likewise, if your campaign receives unsolicited material about an opponent, it could be a set-up. Do not use it without independent verification.You will have to do most of the research to convince the media to bite. If you get 70 percent of the work done, that's about enough for reporters to follow it up, one Republican opposition researcher told U.S. News & World Report. If you give them 30 percent, most won't do the story.

If the media will not cover the negative information on their own and the campaign has to promote it, the candidate generally has to be the one responsible for releasing the negative information, rather than a member of the campaign team. If the campaign is going to launch an attack, the candidate cannot expect to take refuge behind a staff member when the inevitable return-shelling commences. If you are campaigning negatively via mailed or distributed campaign literature, however, the candidate should be kept out of the piece, with nothing more than a Paid for by Citizens for Joe Goodguy disclaimer. You do not want Joe Goodguy's picture on the piece so that the voters will think the negative information is about him instead of his opponent. Do not bombard the public with reams of negative information; instead focus on potential hot buttons that are easy for voters to understand. The governor's mansion's food budget was always an issue when...
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